Ash-shab yurid isqat an-nizam
Ash-shaʻb yurīd isqāṭ an-niẓām (Arabic: الشعب يريد إسقاط النظام pronounced [æʃˈʃaʕb juˈriːd ʔɪsˈqɑːtˤ ænniˈðˤɑːm], "the people want to bring down the regime") is a political slogan associated with the Arab Spring. The slogan first emerged during the Tunisian Revolution. The chant echoed at Avenue Habib Bourguiba in Tunis for weeks. The slogan also became used frequently during the 2011 Egyptian revolution. It was the most frequent slogan, both in graffiti and in chants in rallies, during the revolution in Egypt.
The chant was raised at the protests in Bahrain. Ash-shab yurid isqat an-nizam has been used frequently in protests across Yemen. The slogan was used in rallies across Libya at the beginning of the 2011 revolt. In March 2011, a group of youths under the age of 15 were arrested in Dera'a in southern Syria, after having sprayed ash-shab yurid isqat an-nizam graffiti. Their arrests sparked the uprising in Syria. The slogan was also used frequently in Sudan throughout the protests.
In Jordan, a youth group named "24 March" used the slogan ash-shaʻb yurīd islah an-niẓām ("the people want to reform the system"). However, the slogan later changed to ash-shab yurid isqat an-nizam in November 2012, when the government imposed a hike in the price of fuel.
In Lebanon the slogan has been used in protests against that country's sectarian political system. In the Lebanese protests, an-nizam ("the regime") referred to the sectarian political order as such, rather the government. In Palestine, a variation of the slogan, Ash-shaʻb yurīd inhāʼ al-inqisām (الشعب يريد إنهاء الانقسام, "the people want the division to end"), emerged in protests calling for the two main factions Fatah and Hamas to settle their differences. A parody of the slogan has been used by Bashar al-Assad's supporters in Syria as ash-shaʻb yurīd Bashār al-Asad (الشعب يريد بشار الاسد "the people want Bashar al-Assad"). Another parody of the slogan has been used by King Hamad's loyalist in Bahrain as ash-shaʻb yurīd isqāṭ al-Wifāq ("the people want to bring down Al-Wefaq"), referring to the main opposition party of Bahrain, Al-Wefaq.
Syrian Islamists have appropriated the slogan for their own purposes, altering it to “The People want the declaration of Jihad” (ash-sha’ab yurīd i’lān al-Jihād), as well as "The Ummah wants an Islamic Caliphate" (al-Ummah turīd khilāfah islāmiyyah).
In post-Mubarak Egypt, given the fact that the military government only partially met the demands of the revolutionaries, with the dreaded state of emergency remaining in place, some protesters started using a somewhat different version of the slogan: The people want to bring down the field marshal, referring to Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi, the Chairman of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.
Virtually all English renditions of the uprising's call missed its singular, key letter: "The people wants to bring down the regime." This seeming semantics marks a sea-change in political ethics. For in the two long centuries since Napoleon landed in Alexandria, the moral foundation of modern politics -- popular sovereignty -- has been absent from the Arab Middle East. The Arab people became the object for colonizers, dictators and imams, with their call to submission and arms. Never a subject for thought and action, the people lacked political agency, powerless to forge a collective moral self, let alone a nation to demand self-determination: the right to tell right from wrong in the public sphere.
Whether Arab popular uprisings will eventually transform political systems – thus nominally qualified as real revolutions – remains to be seen. But one revolution is real and clear: the people (شعب, sha'ab) was born – a collective, rather than a collection, of individuals, a whole greater than the sum of its parts. The uprising's slogan was not simply, as one might have expected, "down with the regime." It is precisely because the demonstrates felt that the existence of such a people, let alone one in possession of agency, is far from obvious, that they added, in a resolute speech-act – an act created by speech – "the people wants."
Benoît Challand, teaching Middle Eastern politics at the University of Bologna, commented on the slogan in the following way:
The rendering of autonomy in Arabic illustrates my point as the term is translated as tasayyir daati [sic] – that is the "self-impulse," or "self-drive." And indeed, once the initial spark was lit, it was as if the Tunisian people moved as a whole, into spontaneous protests. Egyptian, Libyan, and Yemeni people called for the fall of their respective regime. The slogan "ash-sha’b yourid isqat al-nithaam" [the people want the fall of the regime], appearing across the region, captures this social cohesion (the people) and the unity in the project.
It will largely be determined in these streets, as well as in the internet cafes, and in the union halls, newspaper offices, women's groups and private homes of millions of young Arabs who have served notice as publicly as possible that they will no longer tolerate being treated with the contempt and disrespect their governments have shown them for their entire lives. They have put us all on notice with their slogan: "The people want the fall of the regime." They are not only referring to their corrupt governments; they also mean the old regime that has prevailed for decades in the entire Arab world, from the Atlantic to the Gulf.
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